OAKLAND (KRON) — After six days of deliberation and months of witness testimony, the jury deciding the fate of the men accused in Oakland’s Ghost Ship warehouse fire has reached a verdict.
The verdict is expected to be announced Thursday at 2 p.m.
There will be a total of 72 verdicts read.
The judge has ordered no ins and outs until all 72 are read.
After a three-months long trial, Derick Almena, and Almena’s co-defendant Max Harris will hear their fate this afternoon.
They face up to 39 years in prison if convicted.
The December 2016 fire broke out during an electronic music party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, killing 36 people.
During the months long trial, a 12-person jury heard testimony from victims’ family members, city and fire department officials and defendants Almena and Harris themselves.
With fire victims’ memories as the trial’s backdrop, prosecutors worked to convince the jury that Almena and Harris were criminally negligent and at fault for the deaths of three dozen partygoers who died in the fire.
Defense attorneys for the pair worked to dissuade jurors from a guilty verdict, presenting evidence the fire was started by arson or an explosive.
Another central piece of defense attorneys’ claims was that to this day, the cause and origin of the warehouse fire remains unknown.
On the night of Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, the Ghost Ship was the site of an electronic dance concert, where Oakland’s eclectic artist community gathered.
The fire began around 11:30 p.m. at the 10,000 square-foot warehouse in the city’s Fruitvale neighborhood.
About five hours later, with the help of 52 firefighters, the fire was out.
Many remained missing and nine people were confirmed dead by the next morning.
By Dec. 5, 2016, three dozen were confirmed dead.
In June 2017, Almena and Harris were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
They’ve remained in police custody since.
Almost two years after their arrests, the trial got underway.
Prosecutors opened their case to the jury by remembering the victims, setting the stage for a trial with emotional, and sometimes combative, witness testimony
In their opening statements, attorneys for Almena and Harris emphasized that the fire was started by arson, discrediting their clients’ guilt.
Last month, Almena took the witness stand.
While wiping away tears, the 49-year-old suspect said, “[I’m] tired, brokenhearted, I’m just so sad. I built something, I dreamed something, I attracted beautiful people to my space.”
During Harris’ testimony, he detailed what happened the night of Dec. 2, 2016.
He remembered stamping hands of guests at the Ghost Ship and later seeing a glow coming from the warehouse as the fire erupted.
He said “eventually, people stopped coming out,” while the fire burned.
He told the court he did the best he could, but that he felt responsible for the fire because it was his house.
Both Harris and Almena were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for those who died in the fire.
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